A community celebration of Japanese art at McGill’s McLennan Library

Story ideas from McGill University.
Published: 26 May 2023

Earlier this month, a Japanese tourist in Montreal made her way to McGill University’s McLennan Library to view the ongoing exhibit taking place during Asian Heritage Month, “From Ukiyo-e to Woodblock Printmaking: A Celebration of Japanese Art.Octavian Sopt, Senior Documentation Technician in the Rare Books and Special Collections branch, is part of the team responsible for exhibits at the library. As a member of the Japanese Seinen Association of Montreal (JSAM), he took the opportunity not only to showcase the Library's impressive collection of rare Japanese art, but to invite members of the community from outside McGill to enjoy them at an event last month. More than 70 guests attended the event, and guests and tourists continue to visit daily. “Given that libraries should be accessible to everyone, and many people might not think of libraries as places where ‘cool’ things happen, I thought that organizing an event on a facet of Japanese culture could reel people into our space and create a nice atmosphere,” said Sopt.  

“We celebrate the beauty of cultural exchange, uniting Japan and Quebec through our shared love for artistic expression, as showcased in the captivating Japanese art exhibition at the McGill Library,” said JSAM president Noboru Yoshida. 

The exhibition is on until May 31, and features ukiyo-e woodcut prints, prolific in Edo era Japan (1603-1868) and mainly portray landscapes, kabuki actors and theatres, scenes of daily life. Visitors can also catch a few examples of early manga dating from 1819. The Rare Books and Special Collections branch owns almost 100 pieces of Japanese prints, which were donated to the library in the early 20th century.   

The exhibition was created with the invaluable help of McGill’s Visual Arts Collection Team: Michelle Macleod, Jessica Régimbauld, Alexis Janssen, Hugo Barsacq-Camard, and Kiana Vakily, and Ariane Perrin (RBSC Student Assistant).

From Ukiyo-e to Woodblock Printmaking: A Celebration of Japanese Art is on until May 31, 2023. The exhibition can be found on the fourth floor of the McLennan Library, 3459 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C9. 

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